Balancing Drive and Creativity as a Music Creator
Being an independent artist can be tough in an age when people need immediate and constant gratification. More than ever quantity is important. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you make poor quality content, but I am saying frequent content with quality is the winning formula, but it’s easier said than done.
So how does one balance drive and creativity as an artist / entrepreneur in 2022?
How do you keep up with the demand for content creation while staying true to yourself and keeping your quality as strong as possible?
This is a guest post with vocalist, lyricist and producer Merty Shango
Well for starters if you didn’t have drive you wouldn’t be here reading this post to begin with so you can already check that box off. Next, where do you find the balance? The one thing every artist can relate to is that when they are inspired, the lyrics or the tune just comes flowing off the finger like butter and it is effortless. But when the creativity isn’t there, it just isn’t there. What do you do then? How do you keep up with the demand? It’s impossible to be in the zone every time you sit down to produce a piece of music, or is it? Is there some sort of system that you can create for yourself to keep that creativity high and the drive which are the most necessary ingredients these days for independent success?
As an artist myself, I’ve faced this dilemma and have had to sit down with myself to consider it. Some days I want to write lyrics until my hands fall off, and other days I can sit in the studio for hours struggling to get out the first few lines. Multiply that with the fact that I have bills to pay, my day to day life to manage – live/survive – how do I find that balance?
Well let’s dive in!
Know your style:
Some people can sit there and just bang it out day in and day out. Some people have creative spurts – which works best for you? For me, I wanted to work on being more self-disciplined, and I totally believe in the 10,000-hour rule. So I thought by forcing myself to create one project a day, it would force me to improve, and, in the meantime, I would have more content to share thus bringing more awareness to my brand. The thing is though, that may not work for everybody. Some people are working 3 jobs, raising a family, the list goes on in real life responsibilities and maybe you just don’t have the time every day to sit and create. That’s when you have the other option which is the “spurts”. If you know you are feeling good and you make something strong that you are proud of, don’t be afraid to make another. Get as many as you can out in that spurt and do the same when the next one comes. Either way as long as you’re working towards that goal, you’re doing great. Baby steps are better than no steps always!
Take your time:
So, let’s say you want to drop a release or something on Tik Tok / Instagram weekly, or 3 days a week. There is no rush to start posting today! For myself, when I announced that I would be posting 3 days a week. I had already taken three months prior to prepare that way by the time it was ready to start releasing the content I had already prepared it all. Now all I had to do was sit back and hit post. By taking your time, you alleviate stress and lack of stress is definitely a great start to creating good content. Everyone must work at their own pace. Remember it’s a marathon not a sprint, so don’t get fooled by thinking that if you create today that you must post today.
I want to say it loud for all the people in the back. Have fun, as an artist, and as an entrepreneur. You are shaping your story. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up too much and burn out. Burn out is a real thing and it sucks, trust me I’ve been there. When I took a step back to learn to enjoy the process of making music again and learning that I was growing even in small steps, I found the whole process a lot more enjoyable. I also made it an effort to be more grateful for what I was doing. Remember you are a musician, and that’s a great gift! A gift not everyone can say they have, so cherish it! Coming from that kind of energy already puts the right foot forward. Instead of saying ugh, I have to create again today, I started to say, I get to create today, and that little shift made such a big difference. The more fun I had during my journey, the easier and more exciting my content became. I also seemed to reach my goals much faster and make much more money too.
Step outside the box:
Sometimes you have to shake things up a bit to keep both the drive and creativity up. We all have our own schedules, and often these schedules are quite cyclic. Day in day out we wake at the same time, eat the same things and sleep at the same times, which can become a bit mundane. With a mundane mood you are going to have mundane music and your drive will be in park. So, how do you shake things up a bit you ask? Well, that depends on you. Here’s what I did: I booked myself on a one-way trip to China and decided I was going to leave my hometown and try to make it somewhere that was completely different from the world I was used to. In doing so, it triggered my flight or fight response and, naturally I chose fight. Waking up in a new world with new norms and new opportunities excited me and scared me. My drive was higher than ever and having so much new stimulation and situations triggered creativity I’ve never had before! That was a life changing move for me. Now of course that’s a bit extreme, and if you’re not ready to pack your bags and fly somewhere and try to do what I did, what else can you do to shake things up?
Sometimes doing music with another person is the best way to get the drive back and the creative juices flowing. Anytime I’m with another artist that I find to be dope, I get so excited about the music and pushing myself to be the best.
Again, I’m not saying fly to Timbuktu or Antarctica, but maybe a new city, a different studio, another state or somewhere neighboring. Get out of your bubble a bit and shake things up. You will be surprised by the results you get.
You know, the more I studied my favorite artists the more I learned and the more motivated I became. Studying Eminem’s cadences when I was younger used to make me so excited about my own music and studying Kanye’s marketing strategies also made me excited. I realized how to do so much more, and in learning more, it boosted my drive to know: I can really do this. A wise man once said, “You can’t earn a living in music, but you can make a killing”. But in these times that’s no longer the case. The world is your oyster, and you no longer need a record deal to succeed and make a living off your music.
Remember most of you had step one already checked off – the “drive”. And for those who are “lazy” remember the cost of being lazy is more expensive than discipline, because life is finite! Get what you want out of it. For step two, just create your system and stick to it. Remain humble and grateful for your gifts and keep enjoying the process. The worst part of any story or movie is the ending, and right now this is your movie. Don’t rush to the end of it, the best parts happen in the middle. I won’t lie to you and say that this magical balance is easy to find, but I will say that it’s worth it. By finding that magical balance point, I’ve gotten to enjoy living off my craft, which was always my childhood dream. On top of that, I’m a better artist than I ever have been. So much content creation so frequently fine-tuned my weak points and strengthened my strengths even more. The more grateful I became for my gifts, the more abundance came my way. So, in this sense you really do reap what you sow. I believe that everyone reading this has what it takes to get where they want to be. Just do it. Have enough respect for yourself to get where you always knew you could. You deserve that. Keeping that balance is tough, but the rewards you have for working to make sure you can, is so worth it in the end.